Shell Shock in JHMAS

Two forthcoming articles in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (JHMAS), on topics associated with the history of psychology, have been published online. The first article, by Edgar Jones, describes the psychological understanding of shell shock in Britain at the time of the First World War, while the other details the potentionally pathological relationship thought to exist between music and nerves at the turn of the nineteenth century. Title, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Shell Shock at Maghull and the Maudsley: Models of Psychological Medicine in the UK” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads:

The shell-shock epidemic of 1915 challenged the capacity and expertise of the British Army’s medical services. What appeared to be a novel and complex disorder raised questions of causation and treatment. To address these pressing issues, Moss Side Military Hospital at Maghull became a focus for experiment in the developing field of psychological medicine as clinicians from diverse backgrounds and disciplines were recruited and trained at this specialist treatment unit. By contrast, the Maudsley wing of 4th London General Hospital expanded from the neurology department of King’s College Medical School and drew upon the neuropathology research of Frederick Mott at Claybury Asylum. By focusing on the psychodynamics of environmental factors, doctors at Maghull offered an alternative to the physicalist hypotheses (heredity and neuropathy acquired as a result of disease or aberrant behavior) explored at the Maudsley. To understand the cause and pathology of shell shock, both institutions admitted a diverse range of patients and experimented with treatments. The individual attention offered to service patients who were not psychotic allowed psychiatry to develop in a way that had not been possible in the county asylum system. The design and operation of Maghull and the Maudsley provided models for departments of psychological medicine in the post-war period.

“From Sensibility to Pathology: The Origins of the Idea of Nervous Music around 1800” by James Kennaway. The abstract reads:

Healing powers have been ascribed to music at least since David’s lyre, but a systematic discourse of pathological music emerged only at the end of the eighteenth century. At that time, concerns about the moral threat posed by music were partly replaced by the idea that it could over-stimulate a vulnerable nervous system, leading to illness, immorality, and even death. During the Enlightenment, the relationship between the nerves and music was more often put in terms of refinement and sensibility than pathology. However, around 1800, this view was challenged by a medical critique of modern culture based on a model of the etiology of disease that saw stimulation as the principal cause of sickness. Music’s belated incorporation into that critique was made possible by a move away from regarding music as an expression of cosmic and social order toward thinking of it as quasi-electrical stimulation, something that was intensified by the political and cultural changes unleashed by the French Revolution. For the next hundred and fifty years, nervousness caused by musical stimulation was often regarded as a fully fledged Zivilisationskrankheit, widely discussed in psychiatry, music criticism, and literature.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.